Boat Review: Predator 35

When Only the Very Best Will Do

You'd think it would be a tough sell - the most expensive 35-footer in the world. But evidently nobody ever complains about buying the very best. Builders of the new Predator 35 feel they have that "very best" and are staking their future on the theory that discerning customers don't mind paying a premium when the product is without question the finest, most advanced of its kind anywhere.

We weren't even out of Hillsborough Inlet (one of Florida's worst) before I came to the conclusion that they're right on the money.
At 21 knots straight into the head sea at 2,700 rpm, the 35 proved smooth as silk even without using trim tabs. It created a strange sensation in that I could watch the bow rise and fall, yet didn't experience the pounding or thud I'd normally expect in such conditions. I couldn't even hear any water noise through the hull. At higher speeds, I could launch the boat off a wave like a small center-console and it would land in cushioned fashion. The only way to know you'd gone airborne was the sudden increase in engine rpm.

A hard-over turn at cruising speed took a scant three boat lengths but dumped speed pretty quickly. Thankfully, the Yanmar 420 hp turbo diesels with two-speed ZF gears rated at 2:1 and 1.5:1 ratios took only a moment to spool back up and get you on your way again.

I can't imagine a better inboard boat of this size to fish, either. I promise that you cannot possibly reel as fast as this boat can spin. In fact, spinning on its axis, the boat actually banks into the turn somewhat.

Drifting, the boat falls off beam-to the seas. I believe roll stability is far greater than most comparable boats, thanks to wide chines and the flat pad on the keel.

Design
Predator may qualify as the most unique hull design for this class of boat. Instead of using a stepped hull (current wisdom) which induces turbulence to break laminar flow along the hull, thereby reducing friction, Predator uses a pad - much like a slalom ski - down the centerline of the keel. This develops more lift, raising the hull out of the water farther and also reducing friction. The designer calculates that the pad reduces the Predator's wetted surface at cruising speed by 50 percent.

Predator's tunnels allow a shallow 8-degree shaft angle, making the boat more fuel-efficient and quicker getting up on plane. In addition, it can run in 25 inches of water and backs effortlessly due to the elimination of the steps.

Cockpit
At first glance, Predator's cockpit looks classically typical. It also sports a beautiful transom baitwell with a window so at night you can enjoy an aquarium effect. Aesthetics aside, you can also tell at a glance how your baits are faring. Cabinets under gunwales hide mops, gaffs, etc. The cockpit rail hit me right above the knees for maximum security while still providing an easy reach to the water's surface for handling fish. The transom door overlaps and has a positive seal to keep water out.
One great feature treats the passengers with the respect they deserve. On the helm deck just above the cockpit, no seat lacks full 360-degree vision to the horizon.

Construction
It takes most production boatbuilders a few weeks to build a 35-footer. It takes four months (or 7,200 man hours) to build a Predator 35. Here's why.
Predator uses the finest ingredients money can buy - most of them made especially for this company. The laminate consists of special fabrics combining 50 percent Kevlar and 50 percent hybrid S-glass and carbon fiber sewn together. Kevlar has the best strength against pulling apart and S-glass the best compression strength.

First the outer laminate gets laid in the mold and vacuum-bagged. Then the Core Cell foam (one inch thick in bottom and decks, three-quarter-inch hull sides) coring, then the inner laminate, then the stringers and bulkheads get installed, with each layer receiving a separate vacuum-bagging process. Finally, the entire boat gets baked in an oven at 150 degrees for 26 hours, which causes the chains of epoxy molecules to align and link together for the strongest yet lightest material you can build a boat out of. There's no more labor-intensive, expensive way to build a boat. On the plus side, however, the Predator tips the scales at 12,500 pounds with the tower, the teak deck and trim, and fuel tanks that form part of the structure of the boat.

Another expensive and significant difference between the Predator and almost anything else is epoxy resin. Epoxy is much stronger than any other resin. Bend equal size slabs of cured resins, and polyester will break in about two bends; vinylester lasts about 10 cycles. Epoxy will never break.
Special "shoehorn" tools help mount the deck to the hull since it's such a tight fit. A new wonder adhesive called Plexus bonds the two. Then it's all screwed together with special epoxy-laden screws that glue themselves into the hole. You'll never back them out. You can lift the entire boat out of the water with the deck cleats.

Interior
Predator builds the entire interior of each boat in full-scale model form in the factory so each owner can get a complete feel for it. There's no excuse for
anyone not getting a boat exactly the way they want it.

Elegant comes to mind when sitting belowdecks. The Predator's interior features super-lightweight Tri-Cell composites, covered by meticulously selected sequential veneers for a perfect grain match. Simple also comes to mind as there's one berth forward, a galley with built-in refrigeration and a full head. Of course, since this is a custom boat, an owner can make the interior anything he wants.

Sure, a $370,000 base price may be a pretty penny for a 35-footer. But for those looking for the very best, who's counting?